Not Much of a Smoker
The fog lifts as the day breaks here in Quitsville. I see some things clearly for the first time. Worse than the Holier Than Thou Ex-Smoker, for years I was "Not Much of a Smoker". Please forgive me and my big, fat ego.
I smoked a lot in the late 70s and 80s. Around 1988 they implemented laws against smoking in the workplace here. That cut into my smoking time somewhat.
In 1988 I also took a Behaviour Modification psychology course. I did my personal term project on 'Nicotine Fading'. The professor advised me against quitting as a project because he wanted me to study something that had a "better chance of success". I spent four months systematically alternating between my brand of cigarettes and brands with less nicotine and tar until I was down to the Canadian brand with the least of both. I also 'faded' down from about a pack a day to about 10. I documented it beautifully, wrote a tremendous paper and got an A.
Afterward whenever I wanted to quit, I would marvel to my doctor, "How can it be so hard for me to quit? I barely smoke compared to most people I know!" She would say, "Someone who uses 5mg of heroine a day is just as much an addict as someone who uses 200mg a day."
I enjoyed every cigarette all these years, or so I thought. I didn't understand the chain smoker except for the nights I played cards and smoked like crazy. Then I would wake with such a headache the next day, and I thought I understood them less. Those heavy smokers never seemed to enjoy their cigarettes like I did; they lit one after another unconsciously. Almost all of mine were an event. I did not know that I was psychologically reinforcing smoking behaviour with every single 'event' as well as maintaining the physical addiction.
Since I waited between each smoke, I was allowing my craving for the physical fix to build up and build up. The enjoyment I thought I felt was relief to the torture I was putting myself through, being in almost constant withdrawal. I was in fact reinforcing the addiction by making each cigarette special. For the addict, it is as fabulous a relief to smoke after waiting a few hours, as it is to finally stop after you have been banging your head against a brick wall for a while.
I am embarrassed to confess but I will. I really enjoyed my unspoken status amongst smokers as the one who was Not Much of a Smoker. My smoking friends knew I could hang on longer than they could. I think some secretly had contempt for me and my high horse, suspecting (rightfully) that I had a little contempt for their hard core addictions.
Funny things happened. One - the last few years I have increasingly become a binge smoker. Although maintaining my regular pattern most days, I started smoking more and more in the evenings. I've suffered great insomnia from time to time with longer bouts the last few years. I would smoke and smoke in the night. I wasn't enjoying them all so much any more. I have had cyclic energy problems for some time and when my energy was low, I would smoke and smoke. What was causing what here?
Secondly - it seems that all around me most of the hard core smokers I knew have managed to quit the last few years with me having at least as hard a time, if not harder. You would have thought that I, here on my high horse, would have had it easy, would have been one of the first to quit. I am one of or the last to quit in each of my social circles.
And lastly - I have not escaped the physical deterioriation being Not Much of a Smoker. I have weakened my lungs and reduced their capacity by smoking. I have coughed and hacked every day for years like a sick person. I should be in top form at just 41, not wheezing up a single flight of stairs, not wondering if I have developed Bronchitis each winter. I am fatter than I should be because as my lungs have gotten weaker, I have walked less and done less other exercise because it is so uncomfortable.
Yes, the fog is lifting as the day breaks here in Quitsville. I've retired my high horse to pasture. I am humbled and grateful to finally understand what has happened and what I have been doing to myself all these years. And once again I ask of myself, forgive me and my big, fat ego. I am an addict. I am in recovery. And now I understand.
Thank you Freedom for giving me a place to work it out.
~ Kay ~